Bunless veggie burgers

31 May

Chickpeas, aka garbanzos, are a special thing around here. They are called hummus, which encompasses all chickpeas, whether dried, green or cooked. This same word also can mean hummus the way we know it in the US, as the thick paste that you spread on pita bread.

Chickpeas get transformed into a multitude of forms. You can find them presented in boiled yellow as a snack at bars or coffee shops, served green in the pod with salt, or further cooked in musabaha, falafel, stews or the omnipresent hummus.

Crispy, fried falafel is by no means in short supply around here either. It’s a popular choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in various incarnations. But sometimes you want something that is hearty, but that won’t weigh you down through the evening. And that is where the Ultimate Veggie Burgers from 101 Cookbooks fits the bill exactly. It’s not falafel, but it hits the same hungry spot without the deep-frying.

I was worried the first time I made them, since Cameraman is usually a confirmed carnivore. However, after that first experiment, he declared the dish one of his new favorite things to eat for dinner.

Experiment with toppings. I usually go with whatever condiments, cheeses and choppable veggies are available. Particular favorites include lebneh (a thick local yogurt spread), sliced green onions, avocado, blue cheese and Zanzibari chutney from our last trip to Nairobi.

The burgers really are flexible and allow you to make them to your own taste. Just make sure you can eat enough burgers to accommodate all your planned combinations. I usually end up stopping after three or four, which isn’t always enough for my big plans for variety. Cameraman can eat up to six in one sitting, leaving many opportunities to perfect his topping strategy.

Bunless veggie burgers

Makes 12 small burgers
Feeds 2-4 people

2 ½ cups cooked, drained chickpeas (can be canned or cooked from 1 cup dried chickpeas. I do the latter in 40 minutes using my pressure cooker.)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt (may reduce by half or more if you are using canned chickpeas)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 red or white onion, chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 lemon’s worth of zest
1 cup alfalfa sprouts or finely chopped green onion (optional)
1 cup breadcrumbs (store bought work fine in a pinch)

Olive oil for frying

Toppings may include sliced cheeses, avocado, chutneys, tapenade, and sliced or chopped vegetables, along with your favorite condiments. I usually aim for a representation of both strong flavors (to brighten up the more staid burgers) and creamy tastes (to smooth out the bread-ish texture), along with fresh flavors as well.

Special equipment: blending device, non-stick pan with lid or cover

Process chickpeas, eggs, salt and cayenne pepper together using a blender, food processor or immersion blender until they form a mostly smooth paste.

Fold in onion, cilantro and lemon zest, as well as the alfalfa sprouts if you are using them. Finally, mix in breadcrumbs. Let the mixture sit a few minutes so the bread crumbs absorb the moisture and get soft.

You are essentially going to be steaming these babies, so keep them moist enough to hold together. You can add extra egg, water or breadcrumbs depending on how your mixture is holding up. I’ve found that keeping the mixture moist enough to stick to my hands, though messier, results in a soft, tender burger. Form into 12 mini burgers, each the size of a slider and set aside to cook.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When you smell the oil, gently place burgers in the pan so they are not touching. You may hear a sizzle as they hit the pan. Cover and let cook for 7 minutes. Then turn and cook covered for another 7 minutes. You can either place them in a warm oven (200 F) or cut in half and serve with toppings.

These burgers also can be eaten the next day after reheating in a panini press or toaster oven. I suggest splitting them first, warming, then topping to your heart’s content.

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Ultimate Veggie Burger Recipe at 101 Cookbooks.

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2 Responses to “Bunless veggie burgers”

  1. Katrina June 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    These look great. I’m going to make them soon. My son will like topping them with all the different ingredients. Thanks!

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